It Looks Like a Tropical, But It’s Hardy as Heck

Fine Gardening - Issue 190
Photo: courtesy of Richard Hansen

When we read about climbers, we always hear that clematis is the “Queen of Vines.” Well, this new passion flower might just be worthy of stealing that crown. Some gardeners might be familiar with the native purple passion flower vine (Passiflora incarnata, Zones 5–9) that starts flowering in midsummer to late fall. It is sometimes called native maypop thanks to the sound its egg-shape fruit makes when stepped on. The flower color is purplish-blue, although there is also ‘Alba’, a hard-to-find white cultivar.

Recently, a newbie called ‘Alba Supernova’ entered the hardy passion flower scene, and its blooms are the largest ones I have ever witnessed on this native plant. This variety is a tetraploid, which means it has a larger leaf and flower size and greater fruit production.

The 5-inch flower has a pinkish color during cool days and in the morning, but as the day becomes hotter, it turns a pure white. It is delightfully fragrant and can take hot and humid conditions. The flower filaments are thicker and give this plant a distinctly tropical look. It will bloom all summer and even into fall. The leaves are a handsome dark green and keep the plant looking good even when it’s not in flower. ‘Alba Supernova’ is a vigorous plant and may pop up in other parts of the garden from underground runners, but these are easily removed if unwanted.

Illustration: Elara Tanguy

Not much care is needed for this stunner. Just clean up the dead stems in winter, and mulch for winter protection. When selecting the growing area, make sure there is good drainage, as the roots cannot have wet feet in winter. ‘Alba Supernova’ will be happy almost anywhere you put it as long as it has some support from a fence, a wall, or a trellis. And when it flowers, the wow factor will please you almost as much as the bees and hummingbirds.

‘Alba Supernova’ passion flower vine (Passiflora incarnata ‘Alba Supernova’)

Zones: 6–11

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern United States

Stephanie Cohen has spent most of her life trialing, speaking about, and teaching all things plants. She is the author of several books and lectures extensively around North America.


  • Brushwood Nursery, Athens, GA; 706-548-1710;
  • Logee’s, Danielson, CT; 888-330-8038;
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